Business development · 27 April 2017

It’s hard to tear yourself away, but here’s why you should leave your business

Is it time to leave your business?
Is it time to leave your business?

When you’ve made the decision to sell your business, you should start to think about whether its time to leave your business – it needs to stand on its own two feet.

If a business can’t run without key members of staff, it’s a risky undertaking to buy it. Therefore, if you’re looking to sell your business, you need to leave your business to be absolutely certain it can run without you – or else what kind of opportunity is that for a potential buyer?

Looking at your business, if you are the lynchpin that holds it all together, nobody is going to want to take if off your hands once you’re looking for the exit door. If you are prepared to stay on in the business as an employee, or carry out an extended handover process, it might all pan out – but that can bring about problems of its own.

When a previous owner stays on as an employee, but without the same level of authority and potentially surrounded by resentful employees, it can cause cultural problems within the business. You can read about this is more detail in a previous article from this series.

So, how do you leave your business, as part of a preparation to sell up?

Step one: Automation

First of all, make a list of everything you do for the business that will have to be taken care of by someone else when it’s time for you to leave your business.

Is there anything on that list that can be automated? You might be surprised – there are apps and services out there to automate a variety of business processes. From payroll and sales to social media and marketing, automated systems can be a good start to taking some work off your plate.

Step two: Delegation

The chances are, you won’t be able to automate everything, and at some point you will have to hand some of that work on to an employee.

Small business owners are often wary of delegation – after all, your business is your baby, and you’re handing it over to someone else who might not do things your way.

Once you’ve left the business, you won’t have any input over how things are handled, but while you’re able to delegate you can set up easy to follow, step-by-step processes to make sure things go your way.

This is a good way to protect your legacy – if this is of particular importance to you, you can read more here.

Step three: Exit

Once these changes have been made and your business is no longer reliant on you to keep it propped up, stand aside to try and get some perspective.

A buyer is unlikely to chance it on a business with a huge spike or fall in sales – most are looking for stability. If you make radical changes to your business to get it exit-ready, it might be worth hanging around for a while to see what affect your changes have. For this reason, it’s important to get your business exit-ready well before you want to leave.

Remember, these things don’t happen overnight. But if you get these systems in place, when it comes to finding a buyer you should have a smooth transition on your hands.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Business Advice. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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